Friday, June 14, 2024

Lungi Naidoo on Creating her ep Courage and Self-Discovery Through Her Debut Project

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Founder & Chief Creative Mind at Hiphop Africa

Lungi Naidoo returns to the music scene with her latest EP courage. The release of courage sees Lungi return after what has been a lengthy spell away from music dating back to 2016 when she released “Black Diamond”. This time around we get a more authentic and honest Lungi.

After having to deal with personal and career problems Lungi decided to return to music where she could fully express herself in the only way she knew how. In her latest body of work, we come to learn that Lungi has undergone a complete transformation from when we last heard anything from her musically.

With a career that spans 20 years, Lungi Naidoo has at times tried to fit in with what the industry wanted her to be. This however didn’t lead to the desired destination that she had hoped for. Instead, she oftentimes felt like giving up and was close to not making music. Her love for music had seemed to vanish and left her stranded seemingly not knowing who she truly is.

The release of courage serves as a restoration to Lungi Naidoo- the person. Everything from the cover art to the title was carefully crafted to make sure that her message was brought across. A message of hope and a reminder that we are enough. No industry should ever take away the happiness that comes from within ourselves.

Celebrating her Africanism and heritage Lungi’s courage ep runs for a total of 17 minutes. The EP has 6 songs that all seemingly flow effortlessly into each other. The confidence in Lungi’s music accurately shows the growth she has gone through while being away from the spotlight.

COURAGE not only shows Lungi’s personal growth but also her continuous growth as an artist with this being her fourth project overall. Lungi Naidoo has used her talents to grace the world of dance, RnB as well as house music. The release of courage sees Lungi step into the world of Afropop where she blends her unique voice and infuses her love for RnB with a genre that is on the rise globally.

This interview has been lightly edited for the purpose of clarity and context.

Daniel: In your recent interview with Apple Music, you said that you got to a point where you felt worried and scared because things weren’t going your way with your music releases at the time. Talk to me about those emotions and has anything changed now that you released your latest body of work ‘courage’? 

Lungi Naidoo: I went through a lot in the industry and I think the emotions that I was feeling were a lot. At a stage, I felt defeated because I have been in the industry for so long and I have been trying and I have worked with some of the biggest artists, but it just felt like my career was not catapulting to the next level that it needed to. So obviously frustration was one of the things that I went through also depression and just unrest mentally. I think that with your question being how do I feel with this new project. I feel some sort of relief; I was scared though putting out. I was feeling very scared. Are you guys going to like it, are you guys going to want to interview me? I think with every interview that I do with whatever media outlet who reaches out. For me it’s a confirmation that I’m on the right path, the energy that I have put out now with this EP is being received and people are enjoying the music which is my biggest fear that people will not gravitate towards the music because it is different to what I have done before. But to answer your question I feel some sort of relief with this EP.

Do you think that having a sense of emotional intelligence has helped you so far in your career?

 A sense of emotional intelligence is that what you said? That is a good question. That is a first! Emotional intelligence? Do I come off as if I have emotional intelligence? Emotional intelligence that’s interesting. I don’t know how to answer that question, but I am going to think about it because I think that is very profound. It does take a level of control of your emotions, it does take a level of understanding how you feeling and I think I have just never heard the term emotional intelligence and I’m going to own that shit. I am so going to own it, it took a level of emotional intelligence for me to pull my ass out of the dip and just face all my fears! Yeah, so I think it does take a level of emotional intelligence as you would say, or just understanding that if you going through something and you are sad about something or you are hurt or depressed you’ve got to one hundred percent go through it. You’ve got to understand why you are there and why you feeling this way and if anything, figure out, how do you solve the problem and how to get out of it, and what you have learned out of it. You’re right, it does take a level of understanding which is then intelligence or it is a knowledge of understanding that I am going through something for a specific reason and purpose.

“more girls are becoming sound engineers. More girls are working as producers in recording studios and it’s a movement that is going to take time, but we are going in that direction, and being a record label executive myself I feel like that is the role that I am playing in the music industry”

Lungi Naidoo

The music industry for years has downplayed the important role women play in a largely male-dominated industry. With your EP courage, you make it your mission to speak about woman empowerment and self-empowerment. Can you tell me why you felt that now would be the ideal time?

Women empowerment is important to me because I have been in this industry and came into it as a very young girl. I was in my early twenties and I watched the industry still being very much male-dominated. But we as women are starting to realize that we need more female engineers in the industry, we need more production teams to vary from a balance between male to female. Artists need to stand and not be afraid as women to head record labels. From the ground up even to the technical team that is performing live are generally men and I think now at this time we are in, more girls are becoming sound engineers. More girls are working as producers in recording studios and it’s a movement that is going to take time, but we are going in that direction, and being a record label executive myself I feel like that is the role that I am playing in the music industry, it is one thing for me to keep saying “we need to empower other women, we need to do this.” but I am not doing anything myself, I am just an artist. Even though my record label is still very new and small but I am hoping and praying that in the long run, I will be able to sign and empower other artists whether male or female.

“With us celebrating African music, I feel like Africa is ‘it’. We are the ‘it’ kids right now, the platform is being set for the younger generation of artists to flourish. The world is looking at Africa and the talent that is coming out of this beautiful country. Whether you are from Ghana, Nigeria, or South Africa the platform is getting created now for future generations to be bigger than anyone is right now”

Lungi Naidoo

The EP is titled courage. What inspired the name of the project?

What inspired courage is your first question? I would say various trials and tribulations that I have experienced in the music industry. From having to pull myself out of a pit hole and having those emotionally intelligent conversations with myself. That is basically why I titled it “Courage”. We had done the music, and we were done with the EP. They kept saying, “Lungi we need a title.” We cannot even do anything if you’re not giving us a title for your EP. And I kept thinking what am I going to say? The team suggested okay then just choose one of the songs and just make that the title, but I asked for some time because I needed it to be something that would be profound. It needed to be something that would tell a story on its own without having to listen to the music and it does. When I had a conversation with my partner as well as my team I kept saying it’s taken me a lot of courage to do this. You know I am scared but I have had to be courageous to do this and they would say the same to me. One day we were like okay, we use the word “courage” a lot around this Ep and that was the moment that it was like snap okay… Courage it is, it speaks to every song it speaks to me in a personal capacity, it speaks to me as an artist. We titled it courage because it was not easy for me to snap out of the space of feeling like a failure as an artist. Doubting myself as a musician and taking a chance again in the music industry.

Do you think that doubting yourself is just a part of the growing pains as an artist? 

I don’t know actually because most of the time artists don’t speak about it. Being in the industry for as long as I have and with most of my friends being musicians and artists we all go through it. You go through seasons. We all go through seasons in the industry where you are broke. Where you are performing and not getting paid. Where you are not getting gigs and you have rent to pay. Where you spend so much money creating an album of an EP and radio won’t play it. So it’s all of these emotions that just stack up and artists are still human beings, at the end of the day with emotions. So imagine building a shop and nobody comes, and that’s how it feels. Do you know what I mean? That is how it feels sometimes because when we put out music it is us sharing a piece of ourselves, the vulnerability of are they going to like it, will they play it? We all do go through highs and lows as artists in the industry. I sure as hell have.

Courage is classified as Afro-pop, with your unique voice and skill set, I’m sure that you could have taken this project into any direction or genre. Why Afro-pop?

I’ve realized that all of my albums have different sounds. I didn’t do it deliberately though. I started with RnB, then I went to pop from there it was house and dance now its afro-pop. I said in an interview recently that I think I’m a mess because I’m so mixed masala. My brain cannot just do one thing all the time, I honestly want to try and do different things all the time. I was not aware that I was doing that in my music career. The thing is it wasn’t a case of oh RnB isn’t working let’s try house or house isn’t working let’s go into Afro-pop. It was never a conscious choice, even with house the only reason why I did house in the first place was that Black Coffee had asked me to be featured on his album. Then I found that I liked making house music because it sounds nice. I like to challenge myself, but if you listen to my entire discography you can hear the underlying influences of RnB music, and the way I write music is still suited to RnB.

African Music is a trending topic at the moment, being an artist who is proud of her African heritage. Where do you see yourself in the grander scheme of things? And how do you plan on using your platform to make sure that African music gets the proper recognition it rightfully deserves? 

Being proud that’s good that you used that word in the question. I have a rich heritage that I am extremely proud of. I am Indian and Zulu. My father is Indian while my mother is Zulu and my grandfather was from Mozambique. All these three cultures and diversities are within me, my ancestors live within me and are with me all the time. From a young age, I have been taught to respect my ancestors from my Indian side and African side, I’m not confused by any stretch of the imagination and that’s why I wanted to celebrate my heritage with this ep release. With us celebrating African music, I feel like Africa is ‘it’. We are the ‘it’ kids right now, the platform is being set for the younger generation of artists to flourish. The world is looking at Africa and the talent that is coming out of this beautiful country. Whether you are from Ghana, Nigeria, or South Africa the platform is getting created now for future generations to be bigger than anyone is right now. It’s amazing to be a part of it. As Africans, we are a force to be reckoned with. I mean Amapiano a genre that originated out of South Africa is becoming a global genre right now. It’s something we should be proud of.

Growing up in Durban, traveling to Johannesburg for music, and now being in Cape Town how has meeting so many different people influenced you?

I was born and raised in Durban. I left for Johannesburg to follow my dream of making music. As some would say leaving a small town for the big city, my entire adult life was formed in Johannesburg. The inspiration that Johannesburg gave me was to hustle my way to where I want to be. Everyone was just so welcoming; they didn’t care what colour you were or where you initially come from it was all about the hustle. Even if I didn’t accomplish all of my goals it taught me to never give up. Being in Cape Town now has humbled me because I am grown. The city is making me grounded as a human being.

Musically a lot has changed since you first released Black Diamond till now. Struggles with labels… Can you speak to me about your time at the label and your thoughts on independence within the music industry? 

I’m not going to talk about the time at the label… Because uhm no! However, I will talk to you about being independent. I was independent before going to Universal. I released my first and second albums independently. I think that it is very hard when you’re an independent artist because of the volume of work that needs to be done. There is a lot of doors that aren’t opened to independent artists, very important doors that lead to success which major label artists achieve. Then there’s the issue of money. Everything needs to come out of your pocket if you want it done properly. I mean you could call in favours but those favours can only get you so far. If you want to be at the level of a professional recording artist, then you need to pay for PR and studio time which isn’t cheap by the way. Quality of music is so important, you want an experienced sound engineer who knows what they’re doing and that experience comes at a cost. At the end of the day, I can’t explain how it feels to create and release this ep knowing that I own my masters. Before it didn’t mean that much but after the situation, with the label, I realized the importance of owning my master recordings. It does hurt knowing that whatever I created with the label is not mine. It’s a realization that those songs aren’t mine forever. Forever! Now being independent again, I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter what offer comes on the table, if the contract says I don’t own my master recordings then I’m not signing. Because what’s the use of me putting out music if I don’t own it? I want to make sure that whatever I create benefits my kids one day when I’m old and grey. The reason for staying independent is the fact that I own my masters!

You seem very made up with your new release, do you finally feel that courage is a fair reflection of yourself as an artist and where you’re at in life? 

Absolutely, I am living a very courageous life. What the hell am I doing in Cape Town?! My things are in Johannesburg and my family is in Kwa-Zulu Natal. But I’m living this courageous life down here in Cape Town! I’m getting used to the lifestyle and city as well as going through change. I am happy that the ep encourages me in this way.

Amapiano, the genre on everyone’s lips currently. Duro, a song off your ep was remixed into an Amapiano version, how proud are you of this song and what are your expectations going forward with future releases? 

I am more proud of Ameen Harron than I am of the actual song. I am proud of what he did. I think Ameen thinks I lost my mind but I don’t know anything about Amapiano. All I know is that it sounds good and is infectious, it makes you want to dance even though you can’t dance. What Ameen did was so amazing he took my song and elevated it to another space. I am so proud of his work because I didn’t give him any direction. I just gave him the song and he worked wonders. I can’t wait for Ameen to get the credit he deserves because he is so talented.

Lastly what final remarks would you like to leave with your fans after releasing courage? 

My message would be that every single person is important. For every single person who has a form of art, your art needs to be heard and seen. Do not let anyone or anything shift you away from your God-given purpose, no matter the size of your audience. Do not try and fight your purpose and your journey, you have been given that for a reason. Remember it’s okay if you hit speed bumps along the road, just get up and get going. You are enough.

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